NEW guidance on care home visits must be brought in before it's too late and more people lose their loved ones without saying goodbye.

That's the view of Johann Lamont and a group of MSPs who today agreed to write to the Scottish Government to "stress the urgency" of updating legislation. 

It comes after more than 90,000 people backed a petition calling for an essential caregivers' law – named Anne's Law – to be introduced to allow one designated visitor per resident. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: Thousands back calls to allow designated visitors into care homes

Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, and health secretary Jeane Freeman have both promised updated guidance on care home visits is on the way. 

During this morning's meeting of the petitions committee, which discussed the petition, Ms Lamont said: "This is a very challenging and important petition. The campaign around it has been very strong. 

"There is quite a gap between what the guidance is and what the reality on the ground is.

Glasgow Times: Glasgow MSP Johann Lamont Glasgow MSP Johann Lamont

"Even where care homes are allowing visits it is far from what the guidance intended.

"The phrase used to me is that it was like a 'reptile house'." 

As we previously reported, campaigners, led by group Care Home Relatives Scotland, want to see designated visitors introduced in a similar move to England, where legislation has been drawn up to give “essential caregivers” unfettered access to their loved ones.

The petition – started by member Natasha Hamilton following the plight of her mum Anne Duke – has been given support by Glasgow MSPs Anas Sarwar and Pauline McNeill.

However, Scottish Care – which represents independent care home across Scotland – said it was "not the time" to introduce new legislation. 

Ms Lamont, also a Glasgow MSP, continued: "It does seem to me there is a degree of urgency about this. 

"The government wants to try and manage risk as much as possible and this is a group we can manage in a way we can't others, like the risk we all present when we go to a shop.

Glasgow Times: Cathie Russell, co-founder of Care Home Relatives Scotland, has been fighting for changes to legislation Cathie Russell, co-founder of Care Home Relatives Scotland, has been fighting for changes to legislation

"Simply because someone is in a care home shouldn't mean that because they are more easily managed that some of the difficult issues around exercising their rights shouldn't be managed. 

READ MORE: Care home campaigners secure victory as visiting rules to change

"It is not about that we will wait on guidance but we want to challenge them to issue guidance which will lead to change.

"The sense of frustration and distress from families is that there is a big gap between people understanding there is a problem and making a difference.

"We want to ask the Scottish Government and Professor Jason Leitch about these concerns directly." 

Speaking during her daily briefing yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Ms Freeman was looking at the issue “on an ongoing basis”.

She said: “It's important that we don't do that in a way that risks older people in care homes any more than we want to do."